Gordon says he prefers closing to setup

Updated: October 13, 2005, 7:07 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Besides a new pitching coach, the Yankees might have to find a setup man, too.

As the AL East champions dealt with their latest postseason disappointment, George Steinbrenner responded Thursday to Mel Stottlemyre's departure, and Tom Gordon said he would consider leaving the Bronx for the chance to be a closer again.

Changes are expected following New York's loss to the Angels in the division series, and they started with the resignation of Stottlemyre. The longtime pitching was critical of Steinbrenner's treatment of manager Joe Torre on Wednesday, when he said he didn't expect to return for an 11th season with the team.

Steinbrenner responded Thursday in a release issued by the team.

"Mel Stottlemyre will always be a Yankee. When I purchased the ballclub more than 30 years ago, he was one of the teams true stars and leaders and, during his 10 seasons as pitching coach, we won six American League pennants and four World Championships. While it is no secret that I can be a very difficult boss, Mel has always conducted himself as a professional and a gentleman. I wish he and [wife] Jean much success and happiness in the future."

Stottlemyre was at Yankee Stadium on Thursday but did not address the media.

The new pitching coach might be working with a replacement for Gordon, who is set to become a free agent.

Gordon has spent the last two years as the setup man for Mariano Rivera, but made it clear Thursday that he would be interested in returning to the role of closer.

"The Yankees will be first but I still would like to close," he said.

An All-Star in 2004, Gordon has pitched well in the regular season but has been a disappointment in the playoffs. He had an 8.10 ERA during last year's AL Championship Series against Boston, and allowed two runs in 2 1/3 innings in the loss to the Angels. Torre bypassed him in Game 4, when he used Rivera for two innings to finish with the Yankees facing elimination.

Gordon began his career as a starter before becoming a top closer. He led the AL with 46 saves in 1998 for Boston, and said saving games is something he wants to do again.

"I had a great time being a setup here," he said. "I enjoyed every day with Mo. I still have in my mind that if I got an opportunity again to close that I want to do that. Closing's always going to be a first choice for me."

The Yankees also will have to make a decision on Tino Martinez. A member of their four World Series championship teams from 1996-00, he returned to the team this season and hit .241 with 17 homers in a part-time role.

Martinez said Thursday at Yankee Stadium that he would like to come back, but would understand if his role, too, is another one of the changes.

"That's just the way the Yankees are," he said. "Everyone knows when you come to the Yankees things can change from year to year. Everybody knows that."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press